Malgun fishing practice
From ref 20
Although Phillip and Tench both initially assumed that finger tip removal was indicative of marriage, they were inquisitive enough to realise that their assumption was ill-founded. Other colonists, however, were less discerning and less willing to let go of their own cultural assumptions about which acts were important enough to be symbolised by permanent bodily markings. RE Bertrodano, who visited the Clarence River in 1864 taking notes for the London University, insisted that finger tip removal was in fact a reflection of a woman's marital status.28 This interpretation of malgun is indicative of the fact that British observers were influenced by their own cultural assumptions when interpreting Indigenous customs; in this case assuming that marriage is an important act worthy of permanent marking. By the time John Turnbull visited Sydney in 1800, most white settlers realised that malgun was related to fishing. Turnbull describes the practice:
Whilst the female child is in its infancy, they deprive it of the two first joints of the little finger of the right hand; the operation being effected by obstructing the circulation by means of a tight ligature; the dismembered part is thrown into the sea, that the child may be hereafter fortunate in fishing.